As the winter buying seasons ramps up, AMD is readying a major notebook processor release that will be competitive to for the first time Intel in nearly a decade. With recent leaks of upcoming configurations coming from major system builders like HP, and performance data that indicates a strong uplift compared to previous AMD offerings, the mobile AMD chip will force both Intel and NVIDIA to make adjustments to product lines and positioning.
The importance of having a tier-1 vendor like HP as a flagship partner at launch cannot be overstated. Gaining high quality design wins for AMD APUs have been the biggest hurdle for the company to overcome. In the past, only budget-priced, low quality notebooks were shipped using AMD hardware which left consumers feeling as if they were a second-rate product. Having flagship designs from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and others will provide a platform in which the Ryzen Mobile parts have the ability to stand out from Intel’s processor platform while still offering the best quality screens, keyboards, connectivity, and even form factors.
The product, codenamed “Raven Ridge,” is built around the same successful Zen architecture that was first released to the consumer PC market as Ryzen. That architecture resulted in the largest jump in performance for the processor vendor in more than a decade and brought its product portfolio back into contention for high performance use. But these chips included only the components for a primary system processor, not the graphics compute capability required for a modern PC. As a result, all Ryzen consumer desktop computers were required to have a separate, discrete graphics card.
Ryzen Mobile, as it will be called, takes advantage of AMD’s unique ability to offer both a high performance processor and high performance graphics solution and combine then onto a single chip. While Intel does build a graphics solution into its Core series of processors, analysts and media understand its performance levels fall well behind AMD’s graphics in gaming, compute, and even some video playback usage.
Even though AMD’s primary processor design is slightly slower than Intel’s architecture on its 7th and 8th generation Core processors, and that AMD’s graphics performance is slower than the best that NVIDIA offers, it is the ability to combine both into a single product that give AMD an advantage. The result is a single chip offering that includes high quality CPU and graphics performance – something no one else can currently provide the market. AMD coined this product the APU, Accelerated Processing Unit.
Notebooks based on the Ryzen Mobile APU will offer competitive processor performance in both single and highly threaded workloads (think video encoding, photo processing) and complement that with a graphics technology that can offer mainstream gaming performance. This obviously puts pressure on Intel as it has maintained a stronghold on the notebook market for many years, thanks to previous lack of processor performance improvements from AMD’s engineering team. But it also will impact NVIDIA as many of the system builders like HP, Dell, and Acer, often pair a discrete mobile graphics chip with the Intel Core series processor to balance performance in gaming and other accelerated tasks. Those supplemental graphics chips will likely be unneeded in many instances and thus potential sales of low-power products like the GeForce MX150 would decrease.
Depending on the quality of initial system designs, which look promising from the leaked HP information, AMD has the chance to make its first serious move into the notebook PC market in the better part of a decade. APUs have always offered benefits to consumers in theory but without competent and competitive technology for both the standard processor and graphics solutions, Intel was able to maintain its dominance. The revitalization of the processor architecture with Zen, and the continued graphics capability of Vega, have given AMD yet another opportunity to take back market and mind share from its longtime rivals.